2019 Top Five Spots | Early Ice Walleyes
Narrowing Down the Top Five Fishing Spots for Early Ice Mille Lacs Walleyes
2019 Ice Fishing Season Walleye Trends on Mille Lacs Lake
With the ice fishing season looming upon us, we would like to take a moment and “speculate” on the upcoming ice fishing season’s walleye feeding patterns and travel points. The premise behind predicting and finding feeding walleyes on Mille Lacs Lake is simple. Locate the most massive abundance of baitfish and follow their patterns. The Mille Lacs walleye will be following closely behind.
Most of this article is based on the personal experiences of its author. We do, however, consult with other online resources to gain additional insider information on the current patterns of the Mille Lacs Lake walleye. Our top “go to” online resource for the latest Mille Lacs Lake trends is the YouTube channel of leading Mille Lacs Lake fishing guide Tony Roach.
Tony provides excellent information about the current feeding patterns of the Mille Lacs walleye. Tony shares information in his latest YouTube video below that will give us an idea of what the walleyes on Mille Lacs are up to just before fall of 2018. What walleyes on Mille Lacs are doing in August does have an impact on what the will be doing in December, January, and February.
Leading Mille Lacs Ice Fishing Guide Tony Roach Walleye Fall Preview
Tony shows us that a good number of walleyes being caught in shallow and off of crankbait style lures. This is typical during the fall time of the year as walleye historically tend to “shallow up” later in the open water season. Walleyes being this shallow this early tend to indicate a pattern which we will discuss in the following. Why do Mille Lacs Lake walleyes shallow up during the fall time? You guessed it, that’s where the baitfish are.
What Types of Bait Fish Can Be Found in Mille Lacs Lake?
The key to finding Mille Lacs walleyes is to look at the lake as a big food chain. If one of the species in the food chain incurs a subtle or significant change, the rest of the species in the food change will need to adapt to find food, including Mille Lacs Lake anglers. Baitfish are at the bottom of this food chain, so bait fish control the outcome when it comes to anglers finding walleyes year-round. The only time baitfish do not control the location of walleyes on Mille Lacs is during spawn. During spawn time, instinct takes over, and reproduction becomes the driving factor on where walleyes are located.
To understand the baitfish trends of Mille Lacs Lake, you need to know what to look for. Although there are more baitfish types located in Lake Mille Lacs such as the sucker minnow, bullhead, and bluegill, the top three main bait fish types located in Mille Lacs Lake are
Perch (both yellow perch and trout-perch)
Yellow Perch spawn in early spring alongside the walleye. They can be found around muck, gravel or sandy bottoms. Yellow perch primary source of food include zooplankton, invertebrates, fish eggs, freshwater shrimp, crayfish, and small minnows.
Trout Perch spawn from May to August. They can be found on sandy and rocky areas and tend to avoid “soft bottom” areas. Trout-perch primary sources of food include small invertebrates and zooplankton.
Tullibee, or more commonly known as Cisco, and spawn in late fall just before or during ice formation. They can be found in almost any area of a lake that holds them. Primarily they can be located in the deeper basin area of a lake. Their primary food source is zooplankton, fish eggs, insect larvae, and small minnows.
Spottail Shiners spawn in late spring to early summer. They primarily found around sandy bottom areas but also can be found around mucky or rock bottoms. Spottail Shiner’s primary source of food is zoobenthos, green algae, plant matter, mayflies and water fleas.
During the fall time, a good majority of the baitfish on Mille Lacs follow the path of their food sources and head to the shallower regions of the lake. The tullibee head shallow to prepare for spawning. In Tony Roach’s update video above, we can see evidence that this transition is occurring slightly earlier than average this year. Fish are heading shallow earlier which means the bait fish are also. In years past when the baitfish push shallow in late summer, it has led to a longer than normal “shallow bite” when it comes to ice fishing.
If conditions of the lake pressure bait fish to head shallow early, generally this pushes the bait fish to remain shallow for more extended periods of time than usual before they disperse back into the more significant areas of the lake. Natural reasons that contribute to altering where baitfish are located include temperature, structure, and food source. Unnatural reasons that can impact baitfish include human presence and fishing pressure, human alteration to lake structure, and even such things over or under fishing.
When it comes to a food source, baitfish will alter their location based on where their food source is the strongest or nonexistent. Simply put, if there is no food you will not find feeding walleyes. A primary aspect that can affect the food source of baitfish generally falls back to temperature. If conditions are ripe for bait fish to travel to a particular bay on Mille Lacs, you bet that the walleyes will pick up on this and frequent that bay until the food source changes. The focus of anglers should be to locate the prime areas baitfish are found, then target walleyes that are transitioning to these areas or are 8already located in these areas.
Determining the Ideal Locations to Target for 2019 Ice Fishing on Mille Lacs
The 2018-year class of walleyes on Lake Mille Lacs have been tending to be in the three to four-year-old age bracket. Trailing closely behind would be the yearlings to two-year-old class. To put it in perspective, Mille Lacs has a great population of juvenile walleyes that are done completely dumb. In the base population of Mille Lacs walleyes, the instinct to survive is still in its learning stages.
Older walleyes 26” on up, have been through years of lake change. They have developed ways to stay alive that the younger walleyes are just experienced or have not experienced yet. Some of the best juvenile walleye fishing (17”-20” range) will tend to come from the most predictable spots. This can even occur with or without able sources of bait fish being in the area. Why does this happen? These fish seem to do not know any better and follow the leader to where instinctually there has been food in the past.
Larger walleyes tend to know right where the baitfish are located. Alternatively, larger walleyes forage on larger prey and can sustain in areas that juveniles do not. So, the size of the baitfish targeted can come into play when it comes to the size of the walleye the angler desires. A 30” walleye can be caught in an area that does not favor juvenile walleyes because the larger walleye has had years to learn and adapt to those areas. If this occurs, this may sound as if it makes it easier to target larger walleyes on Mille Lacs when in fact it is not. Larger walleyes follow patterns, but they tend to follow less predictable patterns than juveniles.
Top Five Best Locations to Target Walleyes During the 2019 Mille Lacs Ice Fishing Season
With our predictions on the 2019 ice fishing season hotspots on Mille Lacs, we are focusing on juvenile walleyes. Given our years of experience, along with other online sources of information, the following is the IceFishingMilleLacs.com predictions for the best locations to target on Mille Lacs Lake for walleyes during the 2018 early ice fishing season.
All of our Mille Lacs 2018 Top Best Spots for Early Ice Walleyes are conveniently located in the South East corner of the lake. Even though the entire lake offers spectacular early ice walleye fishing opportunities, for those traveling to the lake for a day trip or weekend during early ice fishing, these five spots hold the best chance to locate feeding walleyes.
In No Particular Order, the Following Mille Lacs Lake Fishing Locations Are IceFishingMilleLacs.com’s Top Early Ice Walleye Fishing Hotspots of 2018.
Big Point Reef
Big Point reef offers an entire ecosystem for young, juvenile walleyes to roam and find all they can eat in a short walking distance. Offering sand, gravel, and rocky structure, Big Point reef offers all the habitat needed to brew its self-sustaining feeding grounds year-round. Fish the brake lines running between 10’-20’ and use a brightly colored jig and spoons during the morning hours between 6 am and 10 am, then again in the afternoon for 3 pm to sundown. Anglers can gain access to the Big point Reef area from Nitti’s Hunters Point Resort.
Doe Island Reef and Sunset Bay
Doe Island Reef is a unique area to fish early season. The area holds sand to the east and gravel to the west. This area is also known to be a tullibee spawning ground, and if the conditions are right during early ice fishing on Mille Lacs, this natural occurrence can play into your favor when targeting feeding walleyes.
The center area of Sunset Bay just north of Doe Island offers a great mini mid-lake basin type environment with sand and piles of rocks strung about. This area is secretively known to hold some of the largest non-walleye species in the lake. Both areas are a quick within walking distance of shore and can be accessed by either Appeldorn’s Sunset Bay resort or the public access next to Pine Island.
Fish this area in the later afternoon and bring along a rattling style vertical style jig in bright to perch style colors. Concentrate on the edge of Doe Isle reef between 10’-15’. There are bolder pockets that will hold baitfish, and the walleyes will be in the area.
Isle Bay, Half Moon Reef, and Popes Reef
The basin leading into Isle Bay is a great early ice area to target Mille Lacs walleyes. The is a transitioning funnel that brings schools of hungry walleyes into one area. Easily accessed from shore, within minutes you can be set up and focusing on where the walleyes are active. You can access this area from Johnson’s Portside area, Chapman’s Mille Lacs Resort or the Public accesses in Isle Bay or at Father Hennepin State Park.
This area is fishable all day long. The best early ice fishing times would be after 3 pm to sundown. During Mille Lacs Lake Early ice, fish the walleye as you would late season perch. Keep mobile and drill many holes. There is structure located within the basin, but certain areas are flat and void of structure, so movement is vital. 10’ to 24’ lines and breaks are the areas to be focusing on starting in shallow first and working your way to deeper water. 15-30 minutes per hole, and if nothing is seen on the electronics or caught, move a fifty to a hundred yards towards deeper water.
Upper Twin Island and Spider island
Upper Twin and Spider Islands are considered some of the top untouched early ice areas for walleyes on Mille Lacs. The steep contours and diverse bottom structure found in this area can support bait fish of types found in Mille Lacs. This area is not usually a common “non-local” fishing area. The walk is a bit longer but the rewards could a little bit better depending on weather conditions and ice conditions. Don’t let the locals tell you there is nothing out by those islands. Technically, this is “code word” for stay away.
The two best options to access this area are Lyback’s Ice fishing Resort and Fredrickson Marina. The best time to hit this area is during mid to late afternoon. If applicable, live bog rigs and glow hooks under a slip bobber help hold the bait in plan view. Alternatively, actively working favorite jigging spoons on transitions to different water depths will work also.
Wahkon Bay is a straightforward part of the lake to access and fish. Most likely, Wahkon Bay is the easiest area on Lake Mille Lacs to access and be on walleye friendly waters within minutes of shutting off your vehicle. You can either access the lake from Beachside Resort, Mille Lacs Island Resort or the Wahkon Bay public access.
Out of all the top five 2019 best early ice fishing spots on Mille Lacs, this is one where you may have fellow anglers out in force. When the bite is one, word gets around, and locals will come out quickly. It’s as easy as following their lead as they will know where walleyes are holding and moving.
Fishing the basin south of Half Moon Island is a good spot to set your sights on. 10’ – 20’ of water and a combo of actively jigging and a boober on your second setup will help you cover all walleye scenarios. This area is walleye fishable all day long with early morning and later noon being the prime time to find feeding walleyes.
Well, there you have it. Ice Fishing Mille Lacs’s top five best early ice walleye spots of 2019 for early ice on Mille Lacs Lake.
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